Trey chuckled. “Yeah, I’m pretty sure she’ll be surprised.”
He bit his lip, his handsome face twisted with worry. “Do you think she’ll be mad that I bought it without her?”
A part of Trey wanted Brian’s wife to be mad. Unreasonably mad. Kick-Brian-to-the-curb and take-half-his-shit mad, but the better part of Trey just wanted Brian to be happy—even if someone else was creating his happiness. “I’m sure she’ll get over it. She’s the one who sent you a link and told you it was perfect. She should know you well enough to realize you’d have to buy it for her.”
“You know me well enough to know that. She’s still trying to train me.”
Trey laughed and pounded Brian on the back. “Well, if she hates it, you can pretend it’s mine and I’ll buy it from you.”
Brian shook his head. “What on Earth would you do with a five bedroom house?”
Trey knew Brian hadn’t meant to point out that he was the quintessential bachelor, who’d end up spending long days and lonely nights alone in this modern-style goliath in the hills. “Party until all my guests need a place to crash.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a cherry sucker. After unwrapping it, he stuck it in his mouth. It wasn’t quite a substitute for nicotine, but it helped calm him.
Brian laughed. “You’d need a high-rise apartment building for that, party boy.”
A midnight-blue limousine pulled into the circular drive. Brian beamed. “She’s here.”
The car pulled to a halt and the driver stepped out to open the door, but Brian beat him to it. He reached into the car to take his wife’s hand and helped her rise from the backseat.
“A limo, Brian? Really?” she said.
“It’s Valentine’s Day, sweetheart. Let me spoil you a little.”
She wrapped her arms around his neck. “I think I need to spoil you a little. Is there a bedroom nearby?”
“Yeah, but it doesn’t have a bed yet.” He nodded toward the house which was set back from the driveway. Palm trees flanked its entryway and gave it a secluded feel.
Myrna turned her head and her eyes widened with surprise. “It’s the house I fell in love with on the internet. It’s even more beautiful in person. Are we going to look at the inside?” She squeezed Brian’s hand so tightly Trey feared Brian would never be able to play his electric guitar again.
“Yeah. Hopefully for the next sixty or seventy years,” Brian said, his lips close to her ear.
Trey chuckled. His best friend. What a sap.
“Are you planning to buy it?” she asked tugging her husband toward the front door.
Brian hesitated. Trey knew he didn’t like Myrna to get mad at him, but how on Earth could anyone be angry with someone who had his big, sappy heart that exposed. “Already did.”
“Brian!” she admonished.
“The realtor said there were already three bids on it. I didn’t want to risk losing it. We’re supposed to go sign the final papers this afternoon, but it’s ours, baby. We have a house and we’ll make it a home. Together.”
She embraced him and kissed him hungrily. “I love you.”
“Love you more.”
Trey’s heart twisted. He needed to leave. Should have left before Myrna arrived so he didn’t have to witness this. “I think I’ll take the limo back to Dare’s house,” Trey said. “Give you two some privacy.”
Myrna tugged away from Brian and offered Trey a smile of greeting. Her hazel eyes softened with genuine affection. It was impossible for Trey to hate her. He understood why Brian loved her. What he couldn’t understand was why Brian had never loved him. Not the way he wanted him to.
“Jeez, Trey, I’m sorry,” Myrna said. “I didn’t even realize you were here. How have you been, sweetie? I haven’t seen you in weeks.”
He shrugged. “Can’t complain.” At least not to her.
“Tell Dare I appreciate him loaning me the limo,” Brain said, obviously wanting Trey to leave now that his wife was present. She still had a few months before she quit her job at the end of spring semester so they didn’t get to see each other as often as Brian would like. Trey knew that because Brian griped about it constantly.
“Thanks for your help, buddy. You’re always there when I need you,” Brian said. He offered Trey a hug and he gladly took it.
Trey knew he shouldn’t hang on to Brian for those extra precious seconds or run his hands over the hard muscles of Brian’s back and clench his fingers in Brian’s soft T-shirt. He knew he shouldn’t press his cheek against Brian’s jaw to feel the rough texture of his beard stubble or inhale his beguiling scent as if it were an addictive drug. He knew he shouldn’t do any of those things, but he couldn’t fucking help it.
Let go, Trey’s inner voice insisted. You have to let him go.
No, a stronger voice refused. Never.
When Trey finally eased away, he forced his gaze from Brian’s lips, which he wanted to devour in deep, passionate kisses, to his intense brown eyes, which he wanted to get lost in for a lifetime. Trey was pretty sure every emotion of longing and love was written all over his face at that moment. Another thing he couldn’t fucking help.
Brian grinned and cuffed Trey on the side of the head. “Now get lost. Myrna and I need to go christen a kitchen counter or a wall or something.”
Trey forced a smile. “Should’ve known you two wouldn’t need an actual bed.”
“Bye, Trey. Happy Valentine’s Day,” Myrna said and grabbed her husband’s hand. They took off at a sprint toward the front door.
With his heart in his throat, Trey watched them laugh and love and tease each other until they closed the front door and shut him out. As miserable as he was, he was glad Brian had found what he wanted in life. He was glad Brian was happy. Trey figured he was overdue for a little happiness of his own, but that would require someone getting hurt. And he never wanted that someone to be Brian.
Trey turned toward the limo parked in the driveway. The driver stood outside the backdoor with his hands folded below waist level waiting for instructions.
“Take me to Dare’s house,” Trey said. It’s where he always went when he needed a rock to cling to in the flood waters.
It didn’t occur to Trey that Dare might be out with his current sweetheart, until he was standing in front of Dare’s sprawling mansion with his fingertip pressed against the doorbell button.
Dare’s servant, Harold, answered the door. He smiled a greeting. “Good afternoon, Terrance.”
Trey cringed. “Trey.” He must have told the man a million times not to call him Terrance. “Is my brother home?”
“Darren’s in the hot tub,” Harold said and stepped aside so Trey could enter the foyer.
The shining marble floors, mahogany wood trim, twenty-foot high ceilings and crystal chandeliers hinted at an elegant life-style that Dare did not live. Trey wasn’t sure why his brother had gone with traditional opulence. There were rooms in one wing of the house that were dedicated to his band, Exodus End. Those rooms seemed to fit Dare, but the entire rest of the house looked custom made for a spinster heiress.
“Is he alone?” Trey didn’t want to climb in the hot tub and find his brother otherwise occupied with a woman.
“Last time I checked.”
Trey lifted his eyebrows at the man. It seemed as if Harold had a pathological need to mess with him. Probably because Dare encouraged it.
“He’s alone,” Harold said. “Amaretto Sunrise?”
Trey grinned. It was hard to stay mad at a man who made his favorite drink to perfection and kept his love for that particular girly drink a secret.
“I’ll bring it out to the patio.” Harold turned in the direction of the kitchen.
Trey made his way through the house to the changing room off the side patio. He slipped out of his clothes and into a pair of swim trunks. Dare always kept a few pairs on hand so Trey wouldn’t insist on skinny dipping. Trey peered out through the French doors to make sure Dare wasn’t looking in his direction. Dare’s back was to the house as the view of the ocean was in the opposite direction. Dare sat there in the steaming water in introverted-Dare-style sipping his rum-and-coke and contemplating the meaning of life or some other boring bullshit. Trey grinned, dashed across the patio, leapt over Dare’s head and landed in the middle of enormous hot tub cannonball style.
When he emerged from the water, he expected Dare to be drenched and livid. Dare’s long, black hair wasn’t even wet, but his green eyes took on a devilish glint. A second later, Trey found a toe in his gut and himself underwater again. This time when he surfaced, he moved to the far side of the hot tub where it was safe.
“This is a surprise,” Dare said. “Not.”
“I wasn’t sure if you’d be home. Shouldn’t you be out with your current girlfriend…” Trey struggled for a name. “Christina?”
“Elaine,” Dare supplied. “And no. We broke up a few days ago.”
Which was to be expected. Dare was the king of three-month-long relationships and Elaine’s three months had been up a week ago.
“What are you doing here?” Dare asked.
Trey shrugged and wiped the water off his face with both hands.
“Something happened with Brian again,” Dare guessed.
Trey stared at the churning water before him. “He bought a house.”
“And you’re not invited there.”
“I’m sure he expects me to visit.”
“But not live there.”
Trey shook his head. He and Brian had been roommates for over ten years. Trey didn’t know how to live alone. He sure as hell didn’t know how to live without Brian.
“You can move in here if you want,” Dare said. “I have plenty of room.”
“I wouldn’t want to impose,” Trey said automatically.
Dare chuckled. “Yes, you would. Impose is your middle name. Just think it over. No pressure. No drama.”
Trey nodded. He wasn’t going to move in with his brother. He was twenty-eight-freakin’-years-old. It was about time he learned how to live on his own.
Harold exited the house and set a tray next to the hot tub. Trey eyed the two delicious cocktails and a cherry sucker. Living here with Dare wouldn’t be horrible. He was the best big brother on the planet and his servant already knew what Trey liked. The two of them would take good care of Trey. And maybe he would be less lonely. A little spoiled.
“Miss Stevenson is at the front gate again,” Harold told Dare. “She’s wailing about Valentine’s Day and calling you a rather colorful collection of names.”
“She’ll go away eventually. Do not engage with her.”
Harold set a fresh rum-and-coke within Dare’s reach and returned to the house.
“Why did you break up with her?” Trey asked.
“She wanted to move in with me.”
“You do seem to be looking for a roommate,” Trey said.
“That’s different. I love you.”
“You didn’t love her?”
Dare shook his head. “No. Are you surprised? You know what the tabloids say. I’m incapable of love. Dare Mills—The Man with the Iron Heart.”
Trey rolled his eyes. He happened to know that was far from the truth. “You don’t let that bullshit get to you, do you?”
“Nope.” He took a nonchalant sip of his drink. “Are you ready to give up Brian now?”
If only it was that easy. “Nope.” Trey chugged his drink and reached for the cherry sucker. “When he finally realizes he loves me, I’ll be waiting.”
“You’re setting yourself up for a hard fall, bro,” Dare said.
He’d fallen hard years ago and had yet to pick himself up.
He and Dare sat in silence for a long moment. This wasn’t the first time he’d discussed Brian with his brother. It was more like a habit between them than any sort of revelation.
When the long silence stretched into uncomfortable territory, Dare chuckled. “Aren’t we a fine pair of rich, rock star brothers? Hanging out alone together in a hot tub on Valentine’s Day. The only chick in sight is the debutante making a scene for my security cameras.”
Trey grinned. “She’d probably take you back.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of.”
“I should probably go home.” Home? Would that empty apartment even feel like home now that Brian was gone?
“You know where to find me if you need me,” Dare said.
“All pruny in the hot tub.”
Dare laughed. “For now.”
After the limo dropped Trey off in front of his apartment building, he walked to the corner drugstore and searched the rack of picked-over Valentine cards for one that said what he needed to say. He’d heard somewhere that there’s a card for every situation, but he couldn’t find one that said: I can’t stop loving you. I’ve tried. Please, stop being so wonderful to me. Just break my fucking heart and get it over with or remove your head from your ass and realize we were meant to be together. For the record, I prefer the latter option.
Nope. None of these shallow sentiments came even close to expressing how he felt. He settled for a card that was a little less specific.
When he reached home, he expected it to have changed in some way. Everything was just as he’d left it. Little signs of Brian were scattered everywhere. His sneakers were tossed haphazardly by the door. A picture of his little sister sat on the entryway table. His leather jacket lay discarded across the back of the sofa. An empty beer can rested on the coffee table. Trey supposed Brian hadn’t moved out yet, but he had moved on.
That big gaping hole in his chest made no sense. It wasn’t as if Trey would never get to see him. At the very least, he’d see him on stage during performances and on the tour bus as they travelled around the country from one show to the next. They weren’t home much anyway. Trey wouldn’t have to be alone often. Just tonight. Valentine’s Day. The most depressing night of the year.
Trey switched on lights as he made his way to his bedroom. He reached up into the top of his closet for a shoebox. He tossed it on the bed and lifted the lid. Nestled inside were cards sealed inside colorful envelopes—mostly red, some pink, some white. There was one for each year Trey had been in love. All sealed. All addressed to Brian. Brian had never read any of them and he never would.
Taking a pen from his nightstand, Trey sat on the edge of his bed and took this year’s offering from its small plastic bag. The front of the card was decorated with bright candy hearts—nauseatingly cute. Trey rolled his eyes at it, not sure why he’d bought the stupid thing. He opened it and read the message inside, pen poised above the white-space to record a heartfelt message. Trey wasn’t sure how long he sat there reminiscing about the good times and longing for things he knew he’d never have. He had so many things he wanted to say to Brian. Some of the sealed cards in that shoebox had lengthy outpourings of emotion, others had angry diatribes, a few had song lyrics, and the oldest ones were mostly lust-fueled. Funny how his feelings for Brian had changed and evolved with time, but the underlying foundation had never changed. Love. It was still there steady and true. He couldn’t imagine a time when it would falter or decay.
There wasn’t anything Trey could write now that he hadn’t written in the Valentine’s cards of the past. So this year, he just signed his name, tucked the stupid card in its bright purple envelope and licked the flap. He sealed it and hastily scrawled Brian across the front before tucking it in the shoebox with the dozen other cards that revealed everything he felt but could never say. This one had said it all with just two little words.